Teaching confidence

imgres-1DNA is a funny thing.  I see things in our kids that sometimes just freak me out.  It can be in their mannerisms or how they react to something or just a look in their face and I think wow that reminds me of me or Fred.  The other thing is that as our children have become young adults I see that their are essentially the same people from the day they came out of the womb.

Someone asked me what have I done to give our daughters confidence.  I have to say a flurry of things went through my head but the one thing that was constant is treating them (even from the time they were really young) with respect.  What I mean by that is that we taught them how to do many things with an understanding that they would and could figure it out.

I will share a few stories that went through my head.  When Jessica was in elementary school, I believe 2nd grade, she had a project where they had to build a castle.  She figured out what she needed, we got the supplies and she built it.  We didn’t built it, she built it.  I remember we went to the school to see all the castles one night and it was so obvious that no kid really built their own castle.  Jessica knew it too.  We praised her because she learned a lot that night but most important she built it, nobody else.  That was a confidence builder.

I’d take the kids to McDonalds (shocking but true) when they were young and we lived in the burbs.  It was the entertainment for the evening or afternoon because of the ball pit.  I let them order their own food.  If they wanted something else, I’d give them the money and tell them to go up and order it themselves and get it.  I trusted to them to do it and believe they could.

I remember when our kids moved to NYC at 8, 6 and 3.  We got on the subway to go to school and there was definitely a look of fear when we got down there.  They stayed very close to me.  I acted as if it was no big deal.  Within less than two weeks, we’d get on, they’d find their seat and acted like they owned the place.

At an early age, probably two, we taught them each out to shake hands and look someone in the eye.  Shake hands like you mean it.  Don’t be afraid to challenge an adult if you don’t agree with what they have to say but be respectful.  Express yourself.

Emily was definitely much more wary of new stuff.  Dropping her off at a new school in a new city after moving back from the burbs was a big change for them.  To me, it was just normal.  It is how I operate.  I move from one thing to another with out giving it much thought.  I remember leaving her in class and she looked at me with big glossy eyes begging me to stay.  I looked at her and said, suck it up, you will be fine and you don’t want me to stay when no other parent is.  I will return.  She made a friend in a few minutes and she was fine.  That was certainly a confidence booster.

When Jessica was 12 she had a piano recital on 57th Street.  I don’t remember why but we had to meet there but we were all coming from different locations.  I told her how to take the subway and she did it for herself the first time.  Fred freaked but I knew that she would figure it out.  She did.

Always encouraging with a very loose boundaries yet there were boundaries. Cleaning up the basement after their friends came over every night and then they eventually figured out that their friends had to clean up with them before they went home.  Eating what was made for dinner, end of story.  Never doubting their abilities to find themselves and succeed.  Doing their homework by themselves unless help was needed but I never asked to see their homework, I just expected they would get it done.  They did.  Respecting that they have their own lives and they have to meet their own challenges.

I guess the best people to ask would be our girls ( and Josh ) what we did, if anything, to instill confidence in themselves.  I know one thing, that both our girls stand up for what themselves, what they believe to be right and they don’t take shit from anyone.  Maybe it is in their DNA, who knows.  Maybe it is in the way we raised them.  More than likely it is a mix of both; nature vs nurture.  I know that we are seriously proud of the people that they have become but then again we have always been proud of all three of them.

Comments (Archived):

  1. Brandon Burns

    This is such a newly-empty-nest-mom post, reminiscing about the kids. Very heartwarming. 🙂

    1. Gotham Gal


  2. Sari Nickelsburg

    The Not Taking Any Shit School of Parenting. I’m in.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Lol. It works

  3. Mark Gavagan

    I bet some of this carries over into your investing & mentoring.

  4. Lauren Barnett

    This is great! and reminds me of the parents I had. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Lauren Barnett

      have*. I still have them, and they continue to provide confidence-building parenting — even as an adult.

  5. CCjudy

    Write a book… Judy

    1. Gotham Gal


  6. Shell

    This is awesome and confidence an important thing in the world today. I was just thinking about how young adults become independent and confident while others don’t this week. My two sons, both in their twenties, talk or text me about once or twice a week. Mostly to keep me in the loop of new developments in their lives or tell me about something they did or saw or read. I have a friend whose son & daughter (also in their late 20’s) are constantly calling her (several times a day!) to whine, vent about their problems, ask what they should do about this or that, and give a play by play of their day and the people/drama in their lives. It’s puzzling to me that these young adults still seem to need so much help and feedback from their parents! Reading this makes me think it’s about the lack of confidence and independence they developed when young.

  7. Rohan

    Loved the post and examples.DNA may be a good explanation for certain traits. But, where insecurity and confidence aare concerned, I find it directly related to upbringing. Unnecessarily tough and controlling parents, for example, bring up insecure kids almost without exception.And, that’s sad. Because the world bears the brunt.

  8. yougogal

    Recently, a tech company I know decided to fix a sexism problem triggered by one of their male employees by having a class. The class was for the company’s women and the topic was “how to be more confident.” Aside from the situation’s absurdity, I couldn’t get over how the company thought a class might fix a confidence problem. You illustrate most perfectly how to instill confidence, give people opportunities to experience, to try, and to fail. Then, support them as needed. Then, repeat frequently.

    1. Gotham Gal

      When I was a kid my parents were friends with this couple who let their kids run wild. Painting and drawing on the walls etcWhen the kids turned 8 they decided now was the time to teach them how to behave. My mom said “good luck with that one”This can be applied to confidence. It starts young

      1. wondering

        So if we weren’t taught confidence when we were young, are we basically just f-ed? [context: I look confident to a lot of people. I have the big name degrees, powerful network, started companies, etc. but it always collapses at the last moment because of a lack of confidence]

    2. Anne Libby

      Confidence class? Disheartening.

  9. Sofia Papastamelos

    Love to see this, reminds me of my parents raising me and my sis. My mom is a pediatrician and has seen every node on the parenting spectrum -always a huge motivation for encouraging her daughters to be independent and confident.

  10. lisa hickey

    I love these stories! One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was — “If you want self-esteem, do something esteemable.” Your examples — from building their own castles to learning how to shake hands — are great examples of doing something esteemable. It’s not a pep talk, it’s not “confidence is all in your head.” It’s helping your children understand that time and time again, it is the actions (and the results of those actions) that are what is important.

  11. LizScott

    Just this morning I was talking with my dad about a conversation I had at work with a C-level individual from a different company that I didn’t know well. My boss was surprised I was being as candid as I was and I could kind of tell he wanted to end the conversation quickly, but I had stuff to say and did, and we had a good conversation. My dad laughed at the story and I ended the call saying to him: “Well, this is all your fault, really”

  12. JLIX

    one of my (few) bones to pick with LREI was the parents ALWAYS did the special projects. We never did and kid would come in with something (egyptian project, colonial museum…) that she had worked her ass off doing herself but would wilt a little seeing the spectacular parent produced projects. Wouldn’t have done it any other way but wish LREI had incorporated that a little more in to the culture of the school.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Interesting. Did not see that at LREI. Wonder the age of your kids

      1. JLIX

        eldest left for HS last year (specialized public). Honestly seemed to get worse while we were there, may have been some bad apple parents but the social justice project was especially tough, lots of kids watching their parents jump through hoops while they sat back. (my kid worked very hard and got a lot out of it). Who knows.

  13. AG

    Thanks for sharing!!

  14. awaldstein

    What I’ve learned raising a teenage boy mostly on my own is that you do your best, but the best gets brought out in you when things are problematic.I believe in DNA. I believe in intention in parenting and business. I also know that there are bad months in business and sometimes, very difficult year(s) in parenting.It’s how you deal with those that for me at least impacts the positive aspects of the future.

  15. pointsnfigures

    Awesome. I remember when we moved from the burbs to the city(ages 12, 10). Our friends in the burbs asked how our kids went to school. City bus. They freaked.

    1. Gotham Gal


  16. Rtenbrink1

    I love this post. As a mom of 2, I could not agree more – certain part is DNA, that is for sure- but there is so much you can ingrain in your kids, and sometimes that means just get out of the way and let them grow.

  17. Lally Rementilla

    Thanks for this. Awesome examples. As they say, letting kids fail is the best way to help them succeed.